Thursday, July 7, 2022

Don't let man's rules get in the way of God's love

 Read Colossians 2

Let’s focus on a small part of this chapter, beginning with verse 20.

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Let’s talk about the written code.  I will spend more time with the main thrust of this in the next service, but now let’s look at this written code business.

Is it the Law of Moses?

The Greek word for the Law of Moses is νόμος, ου, ὁ (nom'-os).  When Jesus talked of the Law of Moses, this was the word recorded in the gospels. This was the word that Jesus used.

The Greek word for law in general, to include ordinances and records and written documentation is χειρόγραφον, ου, τό (khi-rog'-raf-on). This is the word in Colossians.

What written code could Paul be talking about?  All those things attached to God’s directives.

It started in the Garden of Eden.  God told Adam not to eat the fruit of a single tree.  Eve told the serpent that they could not eat from it and could not even touch it.

That second part sounds logical but was not a part of the original command.

How about making offerings to religious leaders while ignoring God’s commands?  Surely we must forgive your obligation to honor your father and mother by taking care of them as you made a generous offering to the temple treasury. Jesus lumped that one into a general chewing out for the Pharisees in Matthew 23.

Here’s the long-standing seminary example of such an ordinance enacted by humans—religious leaders for sure.

You are not to do any work on the Sabbath.  That’s not the full instruction and surely omits what Christ had to say, but is the applicable part in this example.

Therefore, as you are not to do any work on the Sabbath, you must not even touch a shovel or similar tool.  Why? You might accidentally use it to do some work.

It has a pseudo-logic to it, but it is not part of the divine instruction. 

It’s a good thing that we don’t have to deal with those things today.  We don’t make up rules to go with right living, do we?

What about which translation of the Bible to use?  There are many who claim that those who use any version other than the King James Version are going to hell, not passing Go, just headed straight for hell.

There are those who claim that wearing a robe is wrong.  I will tell you it is traditional in our denomination and Presbyterian history, but neither right nor wrong so long as it does not supplant an element of faith or practice.

Let’s pick on Paul who presents this challenge to us.  He said in his first letter to the church in Corinth that a man’s head should not be covered in worship but a woman’s head should be covered.

To understand this guideline, we need to understand what Paul is saying in this chapter.  It is a temporary thing that will be of little value in time. Man’s rules don’t last as long as God’s.

The main thrust of comparing the two Greek words deals with salvation and I will discuss that more at the next service.  For now, we must be on our guard that we don’t add rules that add a burden or become a stumbling block to the salvation and discipleship of others.

In the 1950s and into the 1960s, men were expected to wear a shirt and tie to worship.

Late into the last century, women had few leadership roles in the church.  Few were ordained.

Up until the turn of the century, the music in a worship service generally did not match the decibel level of a jet aircraft at takeoff.

We are a people who like to make up our own rules.  Here’s one.  The F4 nursery is only for the children of F4 teachers and helpers.  Is that a rule that will stand the test of time?

Probably not.  One year we might have enough help to have a nursery for all ages.  That would be nice.

Consider that Tom will want to add that at least 1 parent must attend an F4 class.  We don’t want to just run a free day care.  That rule wouldn’t last long either.

Consider our fall basket programs.  At one time we were in full-blown vending machine mode.  We changed to helping families that were seeking God and with whom we had a connection.

That rule gets modified several times each year because God’s Spirit says help that family.

Twenty years ago, many of us met to decide—among other things—if we wanted a mission statement.  We decided we did not.  Loving God, loving one another, and being known as a disciple of Christ by our love would guide us most of the time.

Mission statements are intentionally restrictive so the organization can practice excellence in all it does but not so restrictive that it would curtail our love when the word of God or God’s own Spirit was leading us.

As to the Law of Moses, the short story is that it does not go away but it is surpassed by the glory of God that we know in Christ Jesus.

So what must I know?

Jesus is Lord.

Salvation is found in him alone.

Our response to that salvation should bring glory to God.

Don’t let man’s rules get in the way of God’s love.



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